MANATEE -- Swimmers should avoid Palma Sola Bay because of water pollution, a Manatee County Health Department official said Friday.
The department issued a health advisory for beachgoers after its water quality testing program ranked Palma Sola Bay in the "poor" category, according to Tom Larkin, director of the environmental health section at the Manatee County Health Department.
Similar advisories were issued last week for three
beaches in Sarasota County, officials said.
Readings for enteric bacteria at the beaches exceeded guidelines issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Larkin said.
Contact with such bac-teria may pose an increased risk of contracting infectious diseases, the advisory said.
"Unfortunately, our sampling does not tell you what caused water quality problems," Larkin said. "If you look around the state and other counties, they also have begun to issue some advisories."
"Others are indicating rainfall from (Tropical Storm) Debby is the reason, rainfall runoff into Palma Sola Bay possibly could be an issue," he said when asked what the source of the water pollution might be.
"Our testing doesn't tellus where it came from."
The water will be tested again Monday and the results will be released Tuesday.
The advisory will remain in effect until federal marine water bacterial indicators are within guidelines, the health department said.
Sampling from two other local beaches showed less serious pollution, according to a chart posted at the Florida Department of Health's website, www.floridashealth.com.
The other beaches, Manatee Public Beach North and Coquina Beach North, were rated "moderate" on a scale of "good," "moderate" and "poor." No health advisories, however, were issued for those two beaches.
The ratings are based on the amount of enterococcus bacteria measured in the water, according to the website.
Enterococcus bacteria are part of the normal intestinal flora of humans and animals, but are also pathogens responsible for serious infections, according to Medscape.com, a medical reference site.
Signs went up earlier this week in Sarasota County's Lido, Turtle and North Jetty beaches, advising the public not to swim or engage in water recreation.
"We never like to issueadvisories and are sensitive to their impact on the community," said Tom Higginbotham, Sarasota County Health Department's environmental health administrator.
"However, the intent of the Florida Healthy Beaches program is to provide residents and visitors with accurate, up-to-date information about the water quality at our 16 area beaches."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.